Our Man In Canada
April 10th, 2006

Rock(s)'n Roll - A Primer for the '06 Fish-In
By Chris Chin, Jonquiere, Quebec

The Mill Manager here asked about coming out for a few days on the river this summer. As we were going over some of the possibilities, he also asked if I could give him some pointers on casting.

"Sure, no problem. We can get in some casting lessons at the Mill on lunch breaks and fishing lessons this summer on the river."

"Huh? What's the difference?"

I explained that casting is what we do to get the fly out there onto the water, fishing is a culmination of all the parts.

Case in point. The #24 pool here on my home waters. (actually it's a slow run, but the French doesn't translate well). This run is bordered by trees with a steep near bank...and a slurry of sunken boulders which create wonderful holding lies for salmon.

The view upstream from the #23 up into the #24 - Ste-Marguerite River Quebec

Getting to the #24 isn't difficult. One has only to follow the trail out of the parking lot on the #23, follow the trail up to the #25, then wade back downstream to the #24. The trails here are (pretty well) all maintained and clear.

Now comes the "tricky part". The #24 runs right to left when casting from the near side. A down stream presentation is PERFECT to try for the salmon holding midstream amongst the boulders. How to go about this?

Starting from the beach on the 125, one can easily use a normal overhead cast to get down and across with a wet fly. Unfortunately, the current here is even and slow. IMHO (and experience), the swing is too short and not fast enough. A few down stream mends are needed. I like to cast "out" more than "down" to get a faster swing. A last ditch effort is to point the rod tip.

I started to work the run this way on an early morning somewhere around 2000 (or was it 1999 ??), anyway, even with mid-summer low flows, as I worked my way down into the #24, the river bottom just dropped off too quickly and the trees on the bank just got too close. Time to switch over to roll casting.

The roll cast is much more simple to do than to explain. Most anglers are intimidated by it and just don't practice it enough. Sure it's pleasant to cast overhead with no obstacles in the way of a back cast, but so is casting into a rock garden where no one else has probably fished for the past 3 - 4 weeks.

There are MILLIONS of anglers more able at explaining roll casting than I, my only "pointers" are to keep the line OUT IN FRONT of you when you want to execute and also to let a "belly" form in the line when you rod is near vertical, pause and hammer hard to cast. (sounds more difficult than it actually is, you'll just have to come to the Fish-In to see).

I like roll casting into the #24 because I can cast straight across the current, let a nice "J" form in the line and thus get some speed into the swing.

Down stream streamer swinging is Classic Atlantic Salmon fair. I've seen hard-core anglers practically sleeping while casting and working their way methodically down a run. Early wake up calls and late evening fishing make for some very long weeks during Prime Time.

Casting, mending and fishing out each swing, I'm getting closer and closer to presenting my #14 Green Highlander through the first set of boulders. Inching my way a mere 6-12 inches downstream between each cast. I just KNOW there are salmon holding there.

It's almost hypnotic...Cast, pause, downstream mend, swing, mend again, rod tip left to "hurry" the fly to swing out, pause...pickup...Half step left,...Cast...

I'm into the second set of boulders. Cast, pause, downstream mend, swing, mend again. WHOA! The salmon has followed the fly for 5 feet, trailing it. When I mend, the subtle pause then acceleration of the fly has provoked the take.

This is the nice part about downstream swings, the line is already taught, the salmon takes 'n turns, setting the hook on his own AND DECIDES to CHANGE Zip CODES! He's deep into the backing and half way to the #23 before I have the wits to try palming the reel a tad.

Unfortunately, he turned left and out when he took, I know the hook is set in his right jaw hinge. Going down stream away from me any real pressure and the hook is coming ACROSS his mouth and out!

The birch snag leaning out from the bank will keep me from chasing this one down, and the water is still too chilly to jump in after him.

Time for an old trick. I let off the pressure on the rod. He stops (they'll do this sometimes). Slowly, I raise the rod back up and start walking back towards the beach on the #25, reeling in line as I go. This is called walking a Salmon, and sometimes it works. 10 minutes of give and take and I'm finally on solid ground on the sandy beach and the salmon is 65 feet down stream and across from me.

Now what to do? TEST! A short tug on the line and he's tacking hard ACROSS the run,...I know what's next! A quick turn UPSTREAM, he digs in his heels, he leaps, his first jump, I see a magnificent fish, probably 14-16 lbs. of silver Glory.

A shake of the head in mid-air and the barbless hook is flung free.

I'm not disappointed. I was starting to really wonder how I'd ever get him to come to hand. Anyway, I know where he lives, and I know he is there with a few dozen of his friends.

Renée on the #24 - very low water in 2003 - swinging a Rabbit-strip Muddler through the second set of boulders.

Sound interesting? Come on up for the 2006 Quebec Fish-In (August 7 - 13). ~ Christopher Chin, Jonquiere Quebec

About Chris:

Chris Chin is originally from Kamloops, British Columbia. He has been fly fishing on and off ever since he was 10 years old. Chris became serious about the sport within the last 10 years.

"I'm a forest engineer by day and part time guide on the Ste-Marguerite River here in central Quebec. I've been fishing this river for about 10 years now and started guiding about 5 years ago when the local guide's association sort of stopped functioning."

Chris guides mostly for sea run brook trout and about 30% of the time for Atlantic Salmon. "I often don't even charge service fees, as I'm more interested in promoting the river than making cash. I like to get new comers to realize that salmon fishing is REALLY for anyone who cares to try it. Tradition around here makes some of the old clan see Salmon fishing as a sport for the rich. Today our shore lunches are less on the cucumber sandwich side and more toward chicken pot pie and Jack Daniel's."

Chris is 42 years old as of this writing. He is of Chinese origin although his parents were born and raised in Jamaica. He has a girlfriend, Renée. "She and her 12 year old son Vincent started fly fishing with me in October 2002."

To learn more about the Ste-Marguerite River, visit Christopher's website http://pages.videotron.com/fcch/. ~ Christopher Chin

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